The HeART of Stroke

Feasibility of a randomised controlled trial of an Arts for Health group intervention to support self-confidence and psychological wellbeing following a stroke

Key Contact: Dr Fergus Gracey


Stroke is a leading cause of acquired physical disability that can lead to long term emotional distress which if unresolved, can lead to long-term costs for stroke survivors, their families and health and social services. Health services currently focus on the practical and visible aspects of life, leaving emotional challenges hidden. Theoretical models, based on empirical evidence, have been developed by Ellis-Hill and colleagues (Life Thread Model) and Gracey and colleagues (Y-shaped model) to understand the processes involved in re-establishing a positive sense of self and confidence in life following a stroke. Key is being able to reconstruct a sense of meaning, predictability and coherence in everyday life, when previously taken for granted assumptions no longer hold true; developing new ways of ‘being in the world’.

Through the use of imagination, Arts for Health (AfH) practices offer the opportunity for self-development using internal resources not usually available in everyday life. Within a group setting, a collective sense of identification and belonging facilitates the process of self-development and acceptance. This instils a sense of self-confidence, despite facing unfamiliarity, allowing people to get their lives ‘back on track’ and maintain or develop a sense of wellbeing. Arts and Health interventions have been shown to be helpful in GP practices for people who are isolated and have low confidence, however, their value has not been explored with people living with a stroke after leaving hospital.

Our team, led by Dr Caroline Ellis-Hill (Bournemouth University) is conducting a study to look at the feasibility of a larger multi-centre trial comparing our Arts for Health group (HeART of Stroke) alongside usual care with usual care only, to see if a) the methods we are planning work b) the ways of assessing participants’ well-being, mood, quality of life, confidence and use of health services are appropriate c) stroke survivors want to take part and d) they value the intervention. The study is being run in Bournemouth (Dr Caroline Ellis-Hill, CI) and Cambridgeshire (Dr Fergus Gracey, PI).

To find out more about the study contact Dr Fergus Gracey or


This summary presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme (Grant Reference Number PB-PG-0212-27054.The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.